Majority isn’t Always Right

Fifteen months after the uprooting of Gush Katif, the northern Gaza Strip settlements, and settlements in northern Samaria, it seems that most people prefer not to talk about, and not even to think about, this traumatic event.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on November 15, 2006.)

Fifteen months after the uprooting of Gush Katif, the northern Gaza Strip settlements, and settlements in northern Samaria, it seems that most people prefer not to talk about, and not even to think about, this traumatic event, at the time euphemistically misnamed disengagement. Why trouble our minds at a time when we have so many other things to worry about? And yet, how did we go so wrong?

One thing for sure – the majority is not always right. Of course examples abound in democratic societies where the majority is not always right. Numerous mistakes have been made that were backed by majority opinion. After all, the basic reason for elections is so that the people who were wrong can be replaced by those who turned out to be right. But in this case, the majority was so certain that it was right, that it was unprepared to make the slightest concessions to the large minority that opposed the move.

Disengagement was advertised as a victory for democracy. Nothing less. Its proponents gave birth to a new party, throwing the entire political scene into turmoil, and in the enthusiasm of the moment getting themselves elected as the largest faction in the Knesset to lead the new coalition government. A new dawn was rising for the people of Israel, they claimed. After disengagement would come realignment, a further series of unilateral withdrawals, and the uprooting of settlements.

Well, that did not last very long. Pretty soon it became clear to the majority of Israel’s citizens that unilateral withdrawals paved the road to a continuous deterioration in the security of the nation, and had given the country its most incompetent government in history. How did so many Israelis get hoodwinked? It seems that most of them never looked beyond the empty slogans they were offered by the marketers of Kadima. Here is a selection of these slogans.

“We’re getting out of Gaza, we have nothing to look for there.” The fact was with the exception of Netzarim and Kfar Darom, we had not been in Gaza. Gush Katif and the northern settlements were isolated enclaves in areas not populated by Palestinians. After the disengagement, the IDF returned to Gaza with a vengeance, including to the very areas from which settlers were forced to leave their homes.

“The disengagement will assure the existence of a democratic Jewish State.” This vacuous slogan might have had some validity if the alternative to uprooting the settlements was annexing Gaza to Israel, but no one had called for this move.

“This is a significant step leading to an accommodation with the Palestinians.” But the Palestinians interpreted the move as a triumph for Palestinian acts of terror, thereby encouraging a continuation of their offensive against Israel. The withdrawal only brought the Qassam rockets closer to some of Israel’s population centers, and permitted large-scale arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip, creating a major security problem for Israel. Now the settlements are gone, the Qassam rockets are here on a daily basis, and the IDF engages in large-scale incursions into Gaza and fires artillery into Gaza causing many civilian casualties. It isn’t easy to choose the worst aspect of this horribly mistaken move. Is it the human tragedy of the 10,000 Israelis torn from their homes? Is it the implied statement by the government of Israel that Jews do not have the right to live in those parts of the Land of Israel that may eventually not be part of the State of Israel? Is it giving in to terror? Is it the signal that we are prepared to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines? To these must be added the ill-fated decision to charge the IDF with evacuating the settlers.

Soldiers of the IDF, the people’s army, are obligated to serve in the defense of their country and not in undertaking police actions against Israeli citizens. Among the IDF ranks are soldiers who supported and opposed the disengagement, and soldiers who lived in the very settlements that were being forcibly dismantled by the IDF. Nobody had the right to order them to participate in a matter that was so politically charged and divisive. The defense minister and chief of staff should have been the first to tell the government that they would not allow this to happen on their watch. They simply did not rise to the occasion.


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